(WSVN) - Monkeys living in a colony near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have suffered injuries and even gone missing. Now, nearly three years later, one beloved monkey is back home and living in a safer place. 7’s Karen Hensel spotlights this monkey mission.

Spock’s long voyage has been anything but smooth. He had been living in a colony with other vervet monkeys near the airport in Fort Lauderdale, but as 7News reported in early 2020, the primate was captured after he went looking for food at a nearby business.

Spock was then given to someone as a pet.

Dr. Missy Williams: “I was very upset.”

Dr. Missy Williams is a scientist who has been studying the colony of vervet monkeys for years. She was upset because the person who had Spock, wanted to let him go back to the colony but couldn’t.

Dr. Missy Williams: “Once they’re in your possession, you cannot release them at all. It’s illegal.”

Spock was not allowed to go back to his colony, but Dr. Williams was not about to give up on this primate.

Dr. Missy Williams: “Oh, my gosh. Yeah, so it’s been a long road.”

This was the moment last month when her monkey mission was accomplished.

Dr. Missy Williams: “It was so exciting.”

Dr. Williams was finally able to get a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to build a large enclosure where Spock could live. It sits on part of four acres leased as a sanctuary for the monkeys.

Dr. Missy Williams: “So, once we did get the land, got our FWC permitting, I felt like I had finally moved a range of mountains so to speak. I was very excited and felt relieved.”

We were given an up-close peek at Spock’s new pad.

Dr. Missy Williams: “Oh, that’s a big yawn. It’s his turf. Your space, huh? I think he’s settled in really well since he’s been here.”

Since Spock has already been in captivity, he can never again be allowed to roam fully free, but Williams believes this is the best alternative.

Dr. Missy Williams: “We put a pile of logs there, so it’s a great way to hide food, so it does provide enrichment and it does encourage natural behaviors, so we really think this is a stimulating environment to keep his monkey mind entertained.”

Although separated by a chain link fence, other monkeys will still be able to interact with their long-lost family member.

Dr. Missy Williams: “So we are looking forward to seeing some grooming behaviors, which is always a sign of a happy monkey relationship, and he seems really engaged.”

And that’s important for Dr. Williams who wants to make sure these monkeys thrive.

Dr. Missy Williams: “This is the only place in the United States that you will find a wild population of vervet monkeys.”

Here’s hoping Spock “lives long and prospers.”

To learn more about the Dania Beach Vervet Project, click here.

And if there’s someone or something you think we should feature, send us an email at 7spotlight@wsvn.com.

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